There were those in Michael van der Ham's audience today who found themselves responding to his clothes the way they might to a Rei Kawakubo show: first bemused, then fascinated, finally mesmerized. Van der Ham's collages of cloth were initially wayward enough to feel like the sartorial self-expression of a split personality. The arms told the story. One might be covered by a full sleeve of velvet dévoré; the other would be bared under an off-the-shoulder blouse. There'd be a drapey classical effect on one side, and fitted crushed velvet on the other. Or a sleeve to the elbow versus a little cap sleeve of sequins. And in between, it was all-bets-off, with clashes of pattern, texture, and technique that looked like a consummate statement on randomness in fashion. But with van der Ham as the guide, a road map through the chaos emerged.
The overarching theme was the work of the legendary Hollywood costumer Adrian. With his last collection, van der Ham was all about decades, attaching something from the fifties to something from the seventies, for example. This time around, his focus on one individual didn't seem to temper his profligate creativity, but it coincided with a heightened sophistication. The designer was working with his own prints for the first time, and perhaps that honed the internal logic.
There is something of a postmodern conceit in what van der Ham is doing. He's making fashion about fashion, in the same way a brilliant new artist like Marlo Pascual is making art about art. But in both cases, the peculiar beauty of the result speaks for itself.